Scarecrows in Gahanna's downtown district are welcoming visitors to the heart of the city as part of a new contest.

Make Gahanna Yours, a citizen-driven, volunteer-based, nonprofit organization, is host to the Community Scarecrow Contest. It encourages residents, businesses, civic organizations, nonprofits, school groups, sports teams and families to build the wildest, cleverest and funniest scarecrows imaginable, said Becky Kneeland, Make Gahanna Yours founder.

She said the idea is to bring the community and businesses together and provide a festive reason to visit the area.

Juli Hess, owner of Art Garden Studios, 172 Granville St., said instructors Brandy Wiseman and Mae Furst designed their playful scarecrow for the children of Art Garden.

"We couldn't wait to be part of the surprise around town," Hess said. "This kind of thing evokes joy throughout our community."

Wiseman said 3D art is her favorite.

"It was a blast finding all the pieces and problem-solving like a 3D puzzle," she said. "Our students inspire us. I wanted our scarecrow to feel like it was lively and happy and free, like childhood."

The scarecrow can be found sitting on a bicycle at the business.

Theresa Emch, a Make Gahanna Yours volunteer and member of the Creekside District Alliance, said at least nine businesses are participating in the contest.

She said most of the businesses were receptive to the contest, but some owners didn't feel like they had the creativity to make a scarecrow.

Contest voting began Oct. 5 and will continue through Oct. 20 for the following categories: Most Gahanna Spirit, Funniest, Most Creative, Best Business, Best Family/Individual and People's Choice.

An album of all of the scarecrows can be found on Make Gahanna Yours' Facebook page at facebook.com/ makegahannayours, where fans may vote.

Winners will be posted Oct. 24, and the scarecrows will remain on display through Oct. 31.

Kneeland said Make Gahanna Yours made five scarecrows last year and put them out along Mill Street as part of its fall decorating, with mums and ornamental cabbage placed in the street planters.

"This year we thought it would be fun to get the businesses involved and make it a contest," she said.

Kneeland said the group also is inviting all Gahanna businesses to participate in the first Holiday Window Decorating Contest to celebrate the December holiday season and attract visitors.

Businesses wanting to participate should email info@makegahannayours.com by Nov. 1.

For more information, go to makegahannayours.com and click on Holiday Window Contest under the What We Do tab.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla